Storylines to Watch:
MAPFRE Stadium is a difficult atmosphere for visitors
It could be the intimidating history or the rumble of Columbus’ five supporters' groups, but MAPFRE Stadium has historically been a difficult place for opposing teams to play. In 2018, that trend has continued. Crew SC are currently on a four-game home winning streak and Gregg Berhalter’s men have only lost twice in front of their home fans this season.
“It’s always good to be back home,” said Columbus midfielder Niko Hansen following Wednesday’s 3-2 loss at the Portland Timbers. “Everyone’s going to perform and give it everything. We’ve got to regroup and put this one behind us and look forward to Saturday against Colorado.”
Crew SC have become known for their series of tight contests at MAPFRE often decided late. Columbus’ last four home games were decided by one goal. It's also worth noting that Crew SC’s offense scores almost three times more per game at home than on the road (1.93 goals per game at home vs 0.67 on the road).
With Columbus fighting for playoff positioning in the East, the atmosphere at MAPFRE will certainly be heightened this weekend when the Rapids are in town.
Key starters will be rested and ready
Columbus made substantial changes to their lineup Wednesday night at Providence Park as they fell 3-2 to Portland.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter opted to swap six players from their previous game against FC Dallas to incorporate Patrick Mullins, Héctor Jiménez, Gastón Sauro, Wil Trapp, Niko Hansen and Eduardo Sosa. In exchange, he moved regular starters Gyasi Zardes and Justin Meram to the bench. Key contributors Harrison Afful, Jonathan Mensah, Ricardo Clark and Federico Higuaín were left off the gameday roster altogether.
“I think when we look at our squad, we have guys that we believe in,” Berhalter said postgame. “The eleven that we put on the field tonight we thought were capable of winning this game. It’s a decision that I think was the right one. I think we were capable of winning this game. I think we fell short in some key moments, and we paid for it."
Player to Watch: Gyasi Zardes
With 15 goals this season, Crew SC’s striker has outperformed his last three seasons and is on the hunt to tie his breakout season in 2014, when he found the net 16 times in the regular season and once in playoffs. Zardes has flourished on the field since joining Columbus Crew SC from his hometown club the LA Galaxy, and is currently in fourth place behind Josef Martinez, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Zlatan Ibrahimović for most goals in MLS.
“I always try to lead by example,” Zardes said. “I’m always the one that’s going to put my head down and work. And I feel like if I’m working extremely hard, teammates feed off of that.”
Saturday will mark Zardes’ 12th career game against the Rapids (5-4-2). Within that time he's scored three goals and contributed one assist against the Burgundy and Blue.
In addition to his work in MLS, Zardes has been a prominent member of the US Men’s National team, earning 40 caps (31 starts) and tallying six goals. Most recently, Zardes started in a friendly against Mexico on September 11, 2018 alongside Rapids midfielder Kellyn Acosta.
Columbus Crew SC vs Colorado Rapids - Head-to-Head
The Rapids have met Columbus Crew SC 41 times in the regular season, resulting in a 19-12-10 record. Crew SC is currently in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with a 12-9-8 overall record. The Rapids are coming off a 3-0 loss at home against Atlanta United FC. The Rapids' season record currently sits at 6-17-6 overall.
- Head-to-Head Overall: Columbus Crew SC 12 wins, 49 goals | Colorado Rapids 19 wins, 57 goals | 10 ties
- Head-to-Head in Columbus: Columbus Crew SC 8 wins, 17 goals | Colorado Rapids 7 wins, 26 goals | 5 ties
- Previous Meeting: Colorado Rapids 2, Columbus Crew SC 1 (June 3, 2017)